Of Men and Babies

Embed from Getty Images

Babies. They’re the next natural step after marriage, right? I mean, why else do people get married? Apart from the need to get on each other’s nerves and trying to learn how to live with each other after twenty odd years of not knowing them.

Yes, amidst arguments on which way the toilet paper should roll out to learning to put socks in a basket much as the corner of the room works just fine. In the midst of all that, let’s bring another being into the world and care for them, even though we have no prior experience.

I’m meeting Braxto, a friend I’ve known for over 17 years. He had mentioned he wanted to meet up to discuss a matter of concern. A blessing his call was, as I had the need to leave the house after a fight with my Fair Lady on why I hadn’t cleaned off the breadcrumbs from the kitchen counter. Thirteen breadcrumbs got her all livid. Thirteen tiny breadcrumbs.

Anyway, I met up with Braxto at your typical Nairobi bar. The ones with plastic seats and those plastic Tusker covers draped over a table with one leg shorter than the other (the remedy to the resulting instability is a bottle top carefully placed under the defective leg). There’s some 80s music playing in the background.Soul. The smell of roasting meat and the chatter of Nairobians awaiting the next English Premier League fixture to be displayed on the various well positioned screens completes the picture. Yes, your typical Nairobi bar.

This was the location Braxto chose to lay out his ‘matter of concern’.  He wanted babies.

Now Braxto got married two years ago. I remember. I was his best man, naturally. He has the loveliest wife, who has the sweetest smile and most honest heart I’d ever known. He has a good wife. She loves children too. Always one to give that teary look and utter that sound when she sees children. You know that sound; ‘Awwwwwww’.

So, two years later and still no children.

From what I learnt from my father, The African Chief, that was cause for concern. Then again my father is from a different era, when women were to be seen and not heard. When their sole role was to bear children and cook and clean and bear more children. So when Braxto told me why two years later there were no children to his name, I was taken aback.

“We can’t have kids. Not automatically at least”, Braxto said staring into his whiskey  as if somehow there were answers at the bottom of the glass. I peered into my glass too, for a response to pull out. These was an awkward conversations. I wasn’t sure how to respond.

Braxto was looking for help. His wife had just learnt that she had a condition that didn’t allow her to have children. Something about her not having a consistent ovulation process. She’d need tests, drugs and more tests.

They’d discussed it and Braxto didn’t know what to do. He of course told her it’d be OK. That everything would be fine. The model husband. But of course he needed time to process this new development. He needed a sounding board, thus here we were. Sipping whiskey and seeking answers. I’m not sure what he wanted me to do though, I got a D+ in biology. I couldn’t tell the difference between a zygote and mitochondria.

I thought to myself how that was such heavy conversation to have. Not just babies, but the possibility of not having them. What would The Chief say if I told him I was in such a situation. That after dragging him all the way to icy cold Kinangop to ask for Fair Lady’s hand in marriage, now I have nothing to show for it. He accepted Fair Lady as his daughter-in-law, and now his livestock roam the lush lands of Kinangop. Chewing cud and defecating at will. (Those were his words). And now I cannot bring him home grand children. Unacceptable. He’d probably tell me that if I don’t visit him next with a bundle of joy, he can get me a girl from the village who’d be willing and able to bear me a whole brood. I could still keep Fair Lady or Nyar-Kinangop as he called her, but I could have the village girl on the side. My own personal baby factory.

“Have you thought of getting a second wife?” The words flew out of my mouth with reckless abandon. They caught me off guard. And seemingly Braxto too. He curled his eyebrows and gave me that look that said “What!?”

“Oh, Never mind me,” I shrugged, “Carry on”

Braxto shook his head and continued explaining his situation. He wants children as much as his wife does, but he doesn’t know how to handle her. He has to be ‘the man’ in the relationship. He has to try and hold everything together. Not only does he have to provide materially but he has to withstand his wife’s sudden burst of tears when her attempt at baking that carrot cake back-fires. Or when she desires to stay home with the curtains drawn on a Saturday afternoon and make him watch The Good Wife. Or the lack of intimacy. “Imagine, sometimes in bed she just wants me to hold her”

I know Braxto, he’s not the holding type. Neither am I. We both take a sip of our whiskey. Him to numb the thought of his frustration borne from lack of physical intimacy, me to fill the awkward silence.

As I sip, I can’t help but admire Braxto. Supporting his wife through this difficult time. I’m not sure I’d be able to do the same. Then again I’m the son of an African Chief, stuck in the wrong era.

The football is about to come on, and Arsenal take to the pitch. I order another round of whiskey as we focus on the game.

To think I have thirteen breadcrumbs to clean up when I get home. I hope all goes well for Braxto.